5:00 A.M.

Published: October 23, 2010

Welcome back to the Team Clock Blog where we invite readers to participate in an Ask/Apply/Act model: Ask: raise a team challenge Apply: share an example story Act: discuss action steps for consideration


What does a commitment to team health and wellness look like?


It was still dark when I arrived at 5:00 A.M. to teach the Team Clock methodology to 50 carefully selected leaders from Chiro One Wellness Centers. Their ability to exceed performance goals had earned them the right to participate in a special training opportunity that would conclude by 7:00 A.M. when their peers arrived their routine professional education activities. Engaged from moment they entered the room, this collection of specialists zeroed in on their target: creating breakthrough teams.

Each participant had already read Team Clock. Some had brought their copies filled with post-it notes bookmarking resources for future references. Others were writing in the margins as I began walking them through the cycle. Investment: team members hash out their norms and goals as they determine how to manage conflict and welcome differences. Trust: team members hold each other accountable for the agreed upon direction and the behavior that supports cohesiveness and collaboration. Innovation: team members take smart risks leveraging the differences they had previously endorsed. Distancing: team members acknowledge and accept the consequences of the change they have created and reposition accordingly for the next set of challenges.

7:00 came quickly. I fielded a succession of anecdotes about the commitments teams had made since being introduced to the model and the corresponding changes that had been measured. The energy in the room was palpable. The next wave of employees arriving for their training wondered aloud what the buzz was all about. I departed with excitement about the stories I would hear the next time I met this impressive team of empowered innovators.


Like teams, all relationships require active attention to thrive. Neglected, living things spiral toward demise. With investment, living things learn and grow. With few exceptions, I endeavor to check in on all of my teams and relationships regularly, whether a symptom of distress has surfaced or not. Usually, everything is fine since most of my teams are tuned in to the recipe for healthy interactional dynamics. Sometimes, though, the question is enough to spark attention to the smallest, earliest warning sign of trouble. Because we are brave enough to ask, we receive the gift of early intervention. As a result, experiences of distress serve their functional purpose rather than becoming insidiously built into our structure to later poison team health.

Some teams wait until they are sick to seek help. Others make a commitment to wellness from the outset. Your choice.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.